Aug 24, 2014
H2 (Manga) add (All reviews)
theshinyone (All reviews)
It is difficult to succinctly express the brilliance of H2. On the surface, H2 appears to be yet another generic entry in the overcrowded list of high school baseball manga. Yet, it slowly reveals itself to be so much more than just that - featuring both breadth and depth in its characterization, powerful character dynamics, and a range of emotionally resonant arcs - all of which are bolstered by its impeccable sense of style.

As with any Adachi work, H2 differentiates itself with its bizarre sense of humor. A master of comedy, Adachi employs a wide repertoire of tools to create many hilarious moments. He constantly has his characters break the fourth wall, uses many self-aware puns and double entendres, and is always looking for the next opportunity to insert a shameless advert for his other works - going as far as to dedicate an entire chapter to a ‘Adachi Mitsuru’ gallery exhibit! And that doesn’t even cover a fraction of what he does. It is impossible to capture in words just how hilarious this manga is - I have easily laughed more at the silly little jokes that are littered throughout the series than other series which label themselves as a comedy. H2 is certainly one of the most entertaining series out there.

But H2 is not all style. Whilst the unique humor is undoubtedly one of the series’ strongests suits, it would be a folly to deem it ‘style over substance’ - it certainly does excel in other aspects as well. H2 features a very large cast of characters - easily one of the widest out of the series I have read. Yet, there is never a single character that is neglected. Each character receives due development and growth, and each of their individual arcs is a joy to read. This extends to the entire cast - including even characters which you will initially hate, or characters which seem to exist only for the sake of comic relief.

For instance, one of the highest points in the entire manga comes from the culmination of a side character’s growth throughout the series. Most will initially dislike said character, but his true character and motivations are slowly built up and revealed throughout the series, resulting in a extremely well developed and grown person that is completely different from the shallow ass that he seemed to be. It is also worthwhile to note that this isn’t a sudden shift or turn in character. Unlike some series which attempt to give their casts, especially villains, depth through sudden reveals or extreme shifts in character, the process here is a very slow and subtle one. We are given small hints frequently about what our characters truly feel, and observant readers will be able to tell what a character is really thinking - even if that contradicts what they openly say. Humans are complex creatures who aren’t always completely honest - and H2 does an exceptional job of capturing that. Beyond anything, H2 feels human - and that’s what makes it great.

The side characters aren’t the only ones that shine - the main plot is exceedingly well done as well. What is is about? Well, at the simplest level, it is a love triangle. But leaving it at just that depicts a rather inaccurate picture. It isn’t the typical love triangle wherein two love interests vye for the affections of the protagonist. Instead, it is one between three very close friends, and one wherein there is already a pre-established relationship. It is not a story about courtship, but a story that deals with many interesting themes. It is difficult to go into much detail without spoiling things, but it is one that explores facets of growing up and the potentially painful side of friendship and relationships.

H2 is also a stellar sports series in its own right. Matches are often filled with tension, results are often difficult to predict, and opposing rivals are often very well fleshed out. It has all the great markings of a sports series, but frankly, in my personal opinion, that takes a back seat to what I deem to be the true meat of the series - the complex and highly captivating character dynamics and development. Baseball serves as the vessel which Adachi uses to tell a greater story, serving to unite the characters through their shared passion and love for the sport. It is used to bring out who they are and what they stand for. To me, that is much more exciting when compared to seeing a great play or scenes filled with tension. That is not to say that H2 isn’t good in the sports department - it clearly holds its own. My point is that this is a series that surpasses and goes past the line where most others stop at - being much more than simply a sport manga. This is why I think that you can and should read this even if sport manga isn’t your thing - it is a very different experience that I think almost anyone can enjoy.

To conclude, I think that H2 is a masterpiece. Any follower of Adachi’s works knows about his unique style - his ability to effortlessly use sports to tell a fun and enjoyable tale that is layers deep at the same time. This is his longest work - spanning a total of 34 volumes. It has given him the space to truly develop the story to its fullest, filling it with all sorts of ridiculous little jokes and using it to create a collection of masterful and strong character arcs that fit together seamlessly. That is why it is in my opinion his strongest work, and one that any Adachi fan will enjoy. If this is your first exposure into the world of Adachi, you should definitely give it a go as well - there is nothing like the Adachi brand of storytelling in manga.